Friday, August 10, 2012

The Boy Who Became a Starship

Here's a piece that I wrote pretty quickly, and I haven't had a chance to edit it yet.  Even so, here it is.  Let me know what you think.

The Boy Who Became a Starship

Once upon a time, a little boy was born on a starship.  This may not sound interesting in and of itself.  Then again, the births of even the most extraordinary men and women throughout history were only seen as significant in retrospect.  And this boy, if nothing else, would grow to be the most unique who lived.

This was a massive generational ship with the population equivalent to a major city. They had everything they needed to sustain an entire society as they journeyed to a distant corner of the galaxy.  The young boy’s parents worked all day, so he grew up exploring the bowels of the ship.  He went to school with the other kids, but he didn’t participate in their games.  The boy preferred the solitude of his forbidden excursions.  He eagerly crawled inside the nooks and crannies that no one else would ever see.  Knowing that he would never see anything of the world from which his people came, he felt compelled to explore whatever came within his grasp.

Then, when he was fourteen, he was squeezing his way through the ducts above the cargo hold, when something happened.  A mysterious blue gas began to fill the space around him.  He desperately tried to crawl away from it, but was getting too big to pass easily through the narrow space.  Soon he was overcome by the fumes.  They saturated his lungs, and before he could even begin to speculate about what might be happening to him, he passed into unconsciousness.

When he woke, nothing looked any different, except the gas had dissipated.  He groggily crawled through the ducts, dropping out into the main corridor.  It was usually filled with people going back and forth between their personal quarters and the engine room, hydroponics, and science labs on the other end of the ship.  No matter the hour, this area always had people coming and going.  Yet, it was empty, devoid of all human life.  All that remained were assorted pieces of abandoned equipment: maintenance tools, a stuffed teddy bear, a cart of fruits and vegetables. 

The young man wandered the ship for days, exploring now to see if any other human being apart from him remained on board.  The entire expanse of the ship could have taken more than a week to cover on foot, but he felt he should have seen some sign of life within a couple days.  There was none.

He was alone.

The effects of the gas hadn’t fully worn off.  A part of his brain felt different.  Crazy though it may have sounded, it seemed as if a door in there had been left open, and something lurked on the other side.

Of course, he couldn’t afford to worry about that.  As he walked down the main corridor toward the bridge, he wondered what had happened to everyone, and how he was supposed to go on from there.  Though there was plenty of food, he had to learn to prepare it.  He would need to figure out how to grow it if he had any hope of staying alive long term.  What if the ship broke down?  He had no idea how to make the necessary repairs.  Who would he learn from?

You can learn from me.

The young man stopped.  Those questions had merely been floating around in his head, and even if he had voiced them aloud, no one else was there to answer them.

I’m here to answer them.

His heart jumped into his throat.  “I’m alone,” he insisted aloud.  “I’m alone, so your voice can’t be real.”

My voice is as real as yours.

Now his heart was working double time as he anxiously looked around him.  The mysterious voice could be friendly, but it could also belong to whatever entity took the others.  “Who are you?” he demanded.

You should know me.  You’ve seen more of me than any of the others ever did.

He focused on the voice and the way it felt.  There was no actually sound to it.  He only understood the words, which meant they had to be in his mind.  Yet the voice had a soft, soothing feel to it.  And somehow, as impossible as it seemed, it felt familiar.  “Are you . . . are you the ship?”

I knew you’d recognize me once you thought about it.

The fact that the ship was communicating with him seemed so surreal that he didn’t bother to inquire about its improbability.  Instead, he went to a more practical question.  “What happened to the others?  Why am I still here?”

The aliens rendered everyone unconscious and took them.  I had no way of protecting them, because no one was awake to access my defense systems.  The automatic defenses were not powerful enough.  You were hidden away and safe, so I protected you from their sensors.  You were the only one I could save.

He’d always seen the ship as his home, and even without the other people around, it still felt that way.  Time passed, and the ship taught him what he needed to know to stay alive.  The telepathic connection he shared with the ship grew steadily over the years. 

With his hands and a thought in his head, he was able to grow his own food. 

The ship worked through his hands as he made repairs to critical systems.

His eyes were lasers as he could look at any target and use the weapons to destroy a target at will.

Then, he began to forget the life he had before.  He knew he once had a name that his long-gone human companions used, but he couldn’t remember it.  The ship didn’t need to call him by any name.

From time to time, he wondered what it would be like to have a human being around again, but the ship quickly dismissed it.

You don’t need anyone else.  You have me, and we are one.


  1. This is very interesting. There's a part of me that's sad for the boy, and I want to know more of the aliens that took the others.

    IN a way, this is how I might think Dr. Who got his start with the Tardis.

  2. Great flash fiction, you have a great imagination! :)

  3. I wonder what adventures this boy-ship will have next -- interesting piece!